uMngeni councillor accused of witch-hunt against law firm

2011-07-05 00:00

A DEMOCRATIC Alliance councillor in the uMngeni Municipality, Tim Lindsay-White, was accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against law firm Venn, Nemeth and Hart (VNH) based on “unsubstantiated” and “hearsay” evidence.

So said advocate Gerhard Roberts SC, representing VNH at the commission of inquiry into the affairs of the municipality, which resumed yesterday.

The cross-examination focused on the veracity of Lindsay-White’s evidence; whether he was qualified to make the assertions that he did in his presentation to the commission; and whether he was deliberately withholding evidence from the commission by not naming the people he says had come to him with evidence, which Roberts called, “highly defamatory of VNH”.

Lindsay-White said residents had come to him as the ward councillor, raising questions on whether there was a conflict of interest.

This was because VNH are the legal advisors of the council, property developers in the town, debt collectors,and one of the biggest debtors of the municipality.

He denied that he was protecting anyone and said there were perceptions of a conflict of interest.

He had drawn up a report on this, which he said was entirely his own initiative.

Roberts questioned whether Lindsay-White is qualified in giving evidence since he is not a ratepayer in the town or a lawyer or a debt collector.

He called into question Lindsay-White’s statement that VNH were involved in drawing up the sales agreement on the house bought for the mayor in Mimosa Road Hilton.

Lindsay-White replied that he had corrected his statement and apologised to the commission at which representatives of the law firm were present.

However, the advocate said, he had not apologised to VNH.

Roberts said Lindsay-White had to concede that no irregularities had been committed, that he had no proof that senior partner Matthew Francis had not done everything by the book or that he influenced council decisions, or that the law firm had acted in cahoots with the council.

Lindsay-White said he was not making allegations of irregularities, but placing evidence before the commission of a perceived conflict of interest. He disagreed that VNH acted in the best interest of the municipality with regard to debt collection.

He said he was raising issues that he believed that the commission itself could make findings on or choose to investigate further.

Roberts told Lindsay-Whitethat the allegations he had made were devoid of all substance and a denial of the truth.

“You are just speculating; you have no facts. The commission cannot make a finding,” he said.

Cross-examination of Lindsay-White continues today.

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